Sunday, January 6, 2013

Homemade soap . . . easy peasy

I don't buy commercial soap for myself anymore . . . I make it.  It's very easy to do but requires time, attention.

You make soap out of pretty much any kind of fat or oil.  I make bacon fairly often for breakfast and it's pretty much a waste to throw away the by-product when it can be so useful.  I pour the fat off into a container until I have enough to make a batch of soap.  The recipe that follows uses one quart of bacon fat.

To answer the big question . . . soap made from bacon fat does NOT smell like bacon.  All the baconny smell is neutralized during the saponification process.

Why would I bother to make my own soap when it's fairly cheap to buy?  Self satisfaction?  Yeah, there is the whole "Hey!  Look what I did! I made that!" thing.   But that's not the only reason.

Homemade soap is loaded with natural glycerin.  Glycerin is removed from commercial soaps and sold at a premium for its outstanding moisturizing properties.  Not only is homemade soap excellent for your skin but it cleans well, too.  And, with the omission of scents it's great for anyone with allergies.

The following is a method I use to make a basic lye soap using reserved bacon fat.  Let's make soap!

A word of caution . . . this method utilizes lye (sodium hydroxide).  Lye is extremely caustic and it cause severe burns and eat through many materials it comes in contact with.  So use caution when working with lye.  Use protective gear .  . . very important!  Whatever you use to make the soap (bowls, spoons, etc.) should be designated as such and never used for food.

To answer the next question . . . even though soap is made with such a caustic chemical homemade soap is remarkably gentle and soothing.  The saponification process . .  the chemical reaction between the lye and fat which creates the soap . . . negates the harshness of the lye.

What you will need:  

  • glass or plastic container to dissolve the lye in
  • a kitchen thermometer
  • a large bowl for mixing the soap (2-quart minimum)
  • a kitchen scale
  • wooden or plastic spoons
  • soap molds
  • safety gear - protective eye wear, heavy rubber gloves

Make sure any bowl or utensil you use is non-reactive to lye.  Stick with glass, plastic, enameled or stainless steel.  Some materials . . . such as aluminum . . .  react chemically in a bad way when they come in contact with lye.

The mold can be pretty much anything . . . I have special soap molds but they are completely unnecessary, more of a nice to have than a need to have.  Something that is a long rectangle large enough to hold a batch of soap that can be cut into bars . . . it doesn't have to be perfect.

You can purchase lye at hardware stores or there are a number of sources on the internet that sell lye; soap making or bio-diesel making suppliers are good sources.  Don't use commercial drain cleaner that contains lye . . . it also has other additives you don't want in your soap.  

Lye is an alkaline . . . vinegar is an acid. So, have vinegar on hand to neutralize any spills.  

Okay . . . so NOW let's make some soap.

Cher's Bacon Soap

2 Lbs (1 Quart) of bacon fat (or other lard)
4.4 Ounces (1 Cup + 1/8 Cup) of Lye (Sodium Hydroxide)
7 Fluid Ounces Very Cold Water
Scented Essential Oils (Optional)

Make sure everything is accurately measured.  Like baking, making soap is a science.

Put on protective eye wear and heavy rubber gloves.  In a well ventilated area (poisonous fumes) pour the lye into the water and stir carefully with a wooden or plastic spoon until lye is completely dissolved.  Very important . . . lye INTO the water not the other way around.  There will be an immediate chemical reaction and the mixture will get extremely hot.  Place the container on a solid, level surface and leave undisturbed until it cools to the proper temperature - 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

While the lye is cooling, melt the lard and get it to the proper temperature - 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The bacon fat tends to have bits off bacon . . . not a huge problem, most of that will remain as sediment in the bottom of the pot you use to melt the fat in otherwise it will pretty much be dissolved by the lye.   If it really bothers you then just strain it out once the fat is melted.

The temperature don't have to be exact,but it should be close. If the fat is a little too warm and the lye a touch cooler, it's okay. 

When the lye mixture and the fat have reached temperature, pour the fat into the bowl for mixing the soap.  I use an old Kitchen-aid stand mixer because then I don't have to manually stir the soap.  But that's a luxury and that's only because hubby bought me a bigger/better model and I happened to have a spare lying around.  

Once the fat is in the bowl start stirring while slowly streaming in the lye mixture. Continuously stir until it is thick . . . like a slushy.  Keep in mind this can take anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour (sometimes longer). This is why the Kitchen-aid mixer is so useful.

Once it has reach the correct thickness you can add the essential oils for fragrance or leave it plain . .. . about two ounces.  I used a combination of lavender and eucalyptus.  

Then pour the soap into your mold scraping the sides of the bowl.  Lining the mold with plastic wrap helps with removing the soap from the mold later on, but can leave wrinkles.  But that's not a big deal . . . it doesn't have to be perfect.

Rinse any equipment that has come into contact the lye with vinegar and water to neutralize any lye that may be left behind.  Then wash the soap making equipment thoroughly with hot soapy water.

After a few days the saponification process is well under way and the soap should be firm enough to remove from the mold.  Pop the soap out of the mold.  At this point you can cut the soap into bars using a knife or other such implement.  

The soap is not immediately ready to use; it will have to cure for at least 4 weeks before you attempt to use it.  The bars will need to be placed in a place where there is some air circulation and allows for moisture to be wicked away . . . such as a cardboard box or a brown paper shopping bag.

You can test the soaps readiness by washing your hands with it after the four weeks is up.  If your hands feel slimy after you've rinsed your hands with water then it's not ready.  Rinse your hands with vinegar to neutralize any stray lye and let the soap cure for another 2 weeks or so.  

Store your soap where there is access to air . . . not in a sealed container.  It has a relatively long shelf life but you will find that you will go through your homemade soap faster than with commercial bars.  This is because of the glycerin in the soap, which makes it dissolve at a faster rate.  

1 comment:

  1. Hah!
    Good timing; yours truly got soap molds @ X-mas because I keep threatening to make soap via the wood ash/lye method. The Mrs. is holding my feet to the fire, there.

    This sounds MUCH easier, thanks Cher.